Australia, Australian Labor Party, authoritarianism, Conservatism, deregularion, economics, human rights, left-wing, Liberal Party of Australia, liberalism, politics, poverty, right-wing, social welfare
Let me begin by stating that access to the following are human rights:
- Free healthcare (including contraception, dental and psychology services)
- Free education
- Personal and political freedoms including democracy and freedom of expression
- Equity and equality regardless of gender, age, race, religion, sexual orientation etc
- Certain economic freedoms
A developed civil society should provide the above not just because it is ethical, but also because providing these things is beneficial to a stable, happy, and economically prosperous country in the long term. Studies repeatedly demonstrate the good of ensuring these basic human rights.
There are many ways to provide these things to people. In places like Scandinavia, an extensive social welfare state with high taxes and niche high tech industry and research provide for this. In strategic port cities such as Hong Kong (though significant improvements need to be made in the welfare of the poor and homeless as well as democracy), the financial turnover is so high with many high earning professionals that low corporate and income taxes are sufficient to cover the social welfare budget. In Sri Lanka and Kerala – developing countries with markedly better standards of living than the rest of South and South East Asia – relative food self-sufficiency, large niche export markets and a well-organised, efficient public health system with high levels of literacy provide a foundation.
As you can see, the different taxation systems, different degrees of economic liberalisation and different types of industries are needed for different circumstances. The trick is working out the appropriate strategy for each country.
Right wing and left wing economic policies are more accurately described as “economic deregulation” and “economic regulation”. The extremes of right wing economic policy result in countries like the US or India where even basic public services such as healthcare are non-existent or poor quality. The extremes of left wing economic policy results in broad nationalisation of many assets and businesses such as in communism.
Both extremes are untenable. The question is how to implement appropriate policies for the local resources and population in the middle ground.
Some of these things are seemingly counter-intuitive in that deregulation isn’t always good for the economy, and regulations sometimes improve the economy. New Zealand is a case in point – a small country with a high cost of living, agricultural, tourism and environmental resources but low wages. The increases in the minimum wage under Helen Clark boosted the local economy and created jobs and lowered unemployment because people had enough money to spend on luxuries.
Authoritatianism is not “right wing” or “communist”. It is something that stands on one end of a spectrum with liberalism on the other end.
Australia, then, is in a situation where broadly speaking, the two major parties are both in favour of deregulation and dismantling of public assets. Unfortunately this includes public health and education. Additionally they both espouse a move towards conservatism and authoritarianism, with examples being “anti-terror” legislation, the recent efforts to filter internet pornography and monitor internet usage.
Thus, the Labor and Liberal Parties are neither pro-labour nor pro-liberal. They are both socially conservative, right wing parties. Despite a strong dollar with very low unemployment, services are being cut in the interest of as big a surplus as possible. Large debts are obviously detrimental but the point of a government is not to generate a surplus. Governments are not corporations, they are leaders and service providers. The logical options in the presence of a surplus are really: maintain the status quo, increase spending, reduce taxes. The addiction to the surplus is nonsensical in the current context, especially given the rising costs of health and education and disparities between rich and poor.
Australia is not alone. The international community is generally drifting towards both authoritarianism and right wing economic policy, regardless of whether it is appropriate or not.
The task of the right wing neo-conservative think tanks is thus complete. Murdoch I’m sure is proud.
- Letting Go of Economic Policy that Entrenches Poverty, Coddles the Wealthy (acslaw.org)
- Reframing the welfare debate -Winning the Argument (think-left.org)